Series: Best Book In the BibleEvery Christian knows the importance of reading their Bible, but many are overwhelmed with the task of devouring such a monstrous book! Often times, when Christians lose steam in their yearly reading plans, they can become frustrated and feel defeated. It is for this reason that individual book studies can be a lifesaver. In the Best Book in the Bible series, we will provide entry points into faithful study through “selling” you on why you should fall in love with the various books of the Bible.
So many Christian believers struggle with how to pray; how to talk to God. What if I use the wrong words? How do I to give Him true worship? How do I confess? How do I pour out my heart to Him? If only there were an instruction manual for prayer, confession, and worship. Providentially, there is! For many believers through many generations, Psalms has been the best book in the Bible.
Main Themes: Praise & Worship
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Ps. 1:1-2)
“’Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (Ps. 37:4-5)
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.” (Ps. 51:10-12)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105)
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” (Ps. 150:6)
Admittedly, there is much to be said about Psalms. With 150 entries by several writers, including many by David, Psalms is a rich treasure trove of the heart. Any good Study Bible will contain adequate discussion regarding the nature of Hebrew poetry, as well as the general content of the book. However, I want to offer an approach the Psalms that will help steer you into a deeper love and understanding. Each one is unique, and while it’s impossible to force each one into a rigid mold, there are general themes that flow through certain psalms. Many overlap, others are loose-fitting, but the following categories have been helpful to me:
Royal – Psalms that explore the majesty and splendor of God as the Supreme King. Many of these are also considered to be “Messianic”. (e.g. Pss. 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 89, 101, 110, 132, 144)
Messianic – Psalms that speak of “the Anointed One” [Messiah] referring to the coming King; Jesus Christ. He is often seen as the Ruler, Judge, King, and righteous Sufferer. (e.g. Pss. 2, 8, 16, 22, 40, 45, 47, 69, 72, 101, 110, 118)
Lament – Psalms of petition, often sorrowful. These occur two ways: Individual (e.g. Pss. 3, 26, 28, 31, 40, 77, 120, 141) Communal/National (e.g. Ps. 44)
Imprecatory – Psalms which invoke God’s judgment or curses on one’s enemies. These generally exist to demonstrate God’s just and righteous judgment toward the wicked, to lead them toward the Lord, and to cause the righteous to praise God. (e.g. Pss. 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137)
Pilgrimage – Psalms dealing with Israel, specifically their longing to worship in Jerusalem. Some of these psalms dealt specifically with Israel’s wilderness wandering. (e.g. Pss. 48, 78, 120, 122)
Enthronement – Psalms which glorify the Lord God, beholding Him exalted and lifted up. (e.g. Pss. 8, 24, 29, 47, 48, 96—98)
Thanksgiving/Praise – Psalms of praise and worship of the Lord. (e.g. Pss. 8, 9, 19, 21, 29, 30, 34, 40, 46, 65, 75, 76, 116, 129, 138, 150)
Wisdom – Psalms of wisdom and divine instruction. (e.g. Pss. 1, 34, 37, 49, 52, 73, 111—112, 119, 127—128, 133)
Victory/Trust – Psalms of trust in God, as well as those which proclaim His victory and might over impossible circumstances. (e.g. Pss. 4, 11, 16, 18, 27, 46, 123, 131)
Creation – Psalms praising God for His creation. (e.g. Pss. 8, 19, 24, 29, 48, 93, 95—97, 148)
Penitance – Psalms of repentance and sorrow over sin and transgression, seeking forgiveness and restoration. (e.g. Pss. 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143)
What Makes This Book So Great:
Believers have always sought refuge in the Psalms. They’re a place of comfort and mourning, strength and encouragement, praise and worship. There’s something for everyone, something for every season and time. In the Psalms, we see the first moments of creation, the salvation of sinners by the Lord, and the consummation of His kingdom. In short, we see the glory of God on display.
I have taken to reading the Psalms in groups (1-18, 19-34, 35-49, etc.) although some read 5 per day for 30 days, and so on. There are many methods. However, what I’ve found helpful is to study them out thematically. This helps distinguish them from one another, and also helps in synthesis (comparing texts together).
I have devised a chart full of symbols to represent each major theme. Once I’ve studied out the individual psalm, I mark the heading with any and all categories that may apply. For example, Psalm 2 is both Royal and Messianic, Psalm 22 is Messianic and Lament, Psalm 47 is Royal, Messianic, and Enthronement. Once the Psalms are noted, it can help you get into the right frame of mind as you read them.
Another important tip centers on the need for study, meditation, memorization, and prayer. One idea I was given early on was to learn to pray the Psalms back to God: “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1) or, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Ps. 139:23-34) Praying Scripture back to God not only ensures that your words are honorable and true, but it also trains your heart and mind to think deeply on the Scriptures.
An essential tip is the memorization of the Psalms. And while the vast amount of material can be daunting, it’s at least important to be familiar with what’s in the Psalms, so that you can access it in your time of great trouble, or in times of great joy. Knowing the Psalms teaches your heart to pray, confess, and worship the Lord in a way that truly glorifies Him.
- William Varner, Awake O Harp: A Devotional Commentary on the Psalms (The Woodlands, TX: Kress, 2012).
- Derek Kidner, Psalms 1 –72, 73 — 150. (2 vols.) Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1973, 1975).
- Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (3 vols) Reprinted.
Note: Find the rest of the Best Book in the Bible series here: EntreatingFavor.com/BestBookSeries